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Jabrill Peppers Is Living Proof There’s No Conspiracy Against Michigan–It’s Quite The Opposite, Really

Ilinois v Michigan
Jabrill Peppers counts how many career interceptions he has recorded. (Getty images)

Wild stab in the dark: Your social media feeds and water cooler talk this week have been dominated by Michigan fans complaining about officiating in the Wolverines’ loss at Ohio State.

I know you haven’t been able to escape this narrative because it’s omnipresent, thanks in part to the media validating and then propagating the myth. First it was a Michigan message board that conducted a forensic investigation into officials from the Michigan-OSU game who were from Ohio. Then the mainstream media compounded things by regurgitating that reporting, thereby lending credibility to the story.

Meanwhile no one seems to be mentioning the fact that the line judge for the game–yes, the guy actually responsible for ruling J.T. Barrett reached the line to gain on fourth down in double overtime, awarding Ohio State a critical first down–is from the Grand Rapids area.

That’s right. The official at the center of the (according to Michigan fans) most heinous call in a game (according to Michigan fans) rife with partisan chicanery from the guys in stripes is from the Great Lakes State.

There’s evidence enough that there is no conspiracy against the Wolverines. But accepting that your team simply didn’t earn it on the field isn’t as easy to stomach as the psychological crutch of denying reality and blaming everyone/everything else. It’s easier to point the finger than point the thumb.

But here’s even further proof there’s no elaborate plot against Jim Harbaugh and Co.: Jabrill Peppers was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Again, Michigan Fan is probably saying to himself: “What does that prove? It’s obvious Peppers is the league’s Defensive Player of the Year–he’s a Heisman candidate!”

And of course that’s completely wrong. But that’s another story.

Peppers’ being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (and, to an even greater extent, his Heisman candidacy) is a direct byproduct of his media hype and has nothing to do with statistics or achievement on the field–and I will demonstrate this with fact.

But therein lies my point: How can you honestly believe there’s some grand collusion against U-M when you are witnessing your own program receiving undue credit?

Now, before Walmarters flood my inbox with unintelligible emails and inundate my boss with calls for my immediate execution for challenging the omnipotence of Harbaugh, allow me to produce the numbers. Let’s see how the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year stacks up against the rest of the league, shall we?

Below you’ll find Peppers’ individual statistics and how they rank among Big Ten players. Please bear in mind this is the guy who was resoundingly deemed the best defender among the hundreds of defensive players from the 14 conference teams:

  • Tackles: 72, 32nd in Big Ten
  • Tackles for loss: 13, 7th in Big Ten
  • Sacks: 4, tied for 27th in Big Ten
  • Interceptions: 1, tied for 35th in Big Ten (Peppers got his first career pick at Ohio State when one of his teammates tipped a pass. Fun fact: He was a First Team All-Big Ten selection in the defensive secondary last year without a single interception!)
  • Passes broken up: 1, outside of top 20 in Big Ten (None of the statistic sites list anyone with less than 7)
  • Forced fumbles: 0, unranked in Big Ten
  • Fumble recoveries: 0, unranked in Big Ten
  • Defensive touchdowns: 0, unranked in Big Ten

How can a guy who only ranks among the conference’s top 10 in one major statistical category be so widely accepted as its premium defender? Good question!

I see that valid challenge to this completely unearned recognition and raise you this: How can Peppers be the league’s top defender when he isn’t even the best one on his own team?

Again, don’t take it from me. Look at these numbers:

  • Tackles: 72, 3rd on Michigan
  • Tackles for loss: 13, 4th on Michigan
  • Sacks: 4, 8th on Michigan
  • Interceptions: 1, tied for 8th on Michigan
  • Passes broken up: 1, tied for 8th on Michigan
  • Forced fumbles: 0, unranked on Michigan
  • Fumble recoveries: 0, unranked on Michigan
  • Defensive touchdowns: 0, unranked on Michigan

So, how can Peppers be the Big Ten’s best on defense when he doesn’t even register among the top two on his own team in any of the major defensive statistics? Another good question.

But wait, there’s more!

Here are a few other assorted informational bits that illuminate just how unqualified Peppers is for this distinction:

  • He recorded 1.5 total sacks over Michigan’s last nine games
  • His last solo sack was vs. MSU in Week 8
  • He totaled 37 tackles over in his last eight games (that’s about 4.5 per game–for a linebacker on a really good defense)
  • He hasn’t registered double digit tackles in a game all season (he reached nine once, against Colorado in Week 3)

The biggest disqualification of Peppers as the Big Ten’s top defender, though, has to be his performances in big games. Just look at his production–more like lack thereof–in Michigan’s tilts vs. Penn State, vs. Wisconsin, at Iowa and at Ohio State:

  • 20 total tackles
  • 0 TFL
  • 0 sacks
  • 1 interception
  • 0 passes broken up
  • 0 forced fumbles
  • 0 fumble recoveries
  • 0 defensive TDs

Those are cumulative totals from those four games. And those four games are the largest ones the Wolverines have played all season. Big games–you know, the kind of contests where the best players make the biggest impacts?

The damning verdict: Peppers was a defensive non-factor in each one of those match-ups. Not exactly the kind of performances that get you recognition among the league’s best on defense, let alone winning that honor.

Now, Michigan Fan reads my reality-founded and statistic-based dissection of Peppers’ Defensive Player of the Year resume and hears/sees, “Jabrill Peppers sucks!” And of course that’s a 100 percent inaccurate interpretation due to their psychological impulse to defend any and all things Maize and Blue.

So let me lower the reading comprehension level and state unequivocally that Jabrill Peppers is an incredibly gifted athlete the likes of which every other team in college football would love to have.

(Except for Alabama, because he would be, like, fifth-string there.)

But his versatility and enormous individual talent does not necessarily mean he’s the best wherever he lines up. In fact, the numbers clearly demonstrate he was practically invisible in most of Michigan’s games this season.

So then why did so many “experts” vote for him as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year?

Maybe the field was watered down in 2016, you may wonder. Not so. The obvious deserving choice for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is Ohio State sophomore safety Malik Hooker, who registered almost as many tackles (67) as Peppers at a position less apt for such production while also reeling in a league-best six interceptions (good for fourth-best in the country, by the way) and three defensive touchdowns (also a league best).

And if not Hooker, certainly Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt was more deserving than Peppers: He had 55 total tackles, 13 TFL, 9.5 sacks, one interception, three passes broken up and one defensive score for the Badgers.

Most salient of all, though, for the cases of Hooker and Watt: They didn’t disappear in their teams’ biggest games. (See: Hooker’s Pick 6 against Michigan or T.J. Watt spending much of his trip to Ann Arbor in Michigan’s backfield.)

The numbers don’t lie: Jabrill Peppers didn’t deserve Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Unfortunately for guys like Hooker and Watt, the self-fulfilling prophecy of media preseason prognostication handed it to him on a silver platter.

Feel free to use this preponderance of evidence the next time you hear a Walverine spewing paranoid babble about an Illuminati-esque subterfuge against Michigan.


Beanie can be heard on “The AM Game Plan,” weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on The Game 730 AM WVFN. You can also find his rantings and musings on Facebook and Twitter.

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